When Megan met Robert she was not a senior citizen. That’s the main thing she wants you to understand here.
“Don’t call me an old lady in your story,” she tells me over the phone.
So yes, she was older. Yes, she had AARP. Certainly, she can still remember what life was like when Elvis starred in “Blue Hawaii” and people still called it “oleo.” But she was not a senior citizen when she met Robert.
She was white-haired, she lived by herself, and she was lonely. And nobody tells you how bad loneliness can hurt.
Ideally, you are born into a non-lonely world. You get a mom, a dad, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, a cat, a dog, a goldfish. You grow up around lots of people. Your sister is always braiding your hair. Your brother is always placing toads into your chest of drawers. Dad is always complaining about not leaving the lights on in the other room. Mom is always there to kiss your boo-boos.
Then comes the loneliness. It happens later in life. And it happens gradually. You make a lot of decisions that end up leading you there.
You move away from home. You don’t talk to your family much anymore because your sister lives in California. Your parents pass away. You get married, but it doesn’t last. Soon you are living in an apartment. Alone.
And years go by.
So that’s how it happened. Megan was alone. It wasn’t misery per se. Her routine was a normal one. She worked at a library, which kept her pretty busy. She went to church, she made lots of casseroles, she volunteered. But something was missing.
“It’s discouraging being alone,” Megan tells me. “You never have anything to get excited about, ‘cause it’s just you.”
Years turned into decades. Decades turned into more decades. Her most loyal friend was “Wheel of Fortune” and her cat, George.
One day, she got a call from another close friend, Carolyn, who is also not a senior citizen. Carolyn had signed up to go on an all-seniors cruise. She invited Megan to go, even though—and I can’t stress this enough—these women were not senior citizens.
That night, Megan stayed up late, looking at internet pictures of tropical islands, blue water, and cruise ships. A cruise. What was she thinking? It was irrational. It was expensive. It was stuff children did. It was perfect.
There is nothing quite like a cruise ship to readjust your way of thinking. You meet a lot of respectable people from all walks of life who are thrust into a sudden party environment.
It only takes a few days to get into the spirit of a cruise. Pretty soon, even straight-laced tee-totallers who sing tenor in the church choir are carrying ice buckets of Budweiser to the pizza buffet for a late breakfast.
Megan had fun. There was music, karaoke, and white hair everywhere.
She did just about everything that you’d expect a big group of 70-year-old non-senior citizens to do. She did the foxtrot, sipped piña coladas, she got onstage to sing a duet with a Phillipino Elvis impersonator.
“That’s when I met Robert.”
Enter Robert. He was a tall guy. Not much hair left. Big smile. Tap-water blue eyes. He sat at her group table for dinner that night. She liked him.
Robert was a retired undertaker, so dinner conversation was a little weird. Actually, it was very weird. It was unbearably awkward for some of the other seniors who were not thrilled to be discussing things like buying brand-name caskets for under $1000.
Undertakers, Megan tells me, have a notoriously odd sense of humor. They tell jokes about things that most older people don’t like to think about.
“But he was sweet,” Megan points out. “Sweetest man I ever knew.”
They hit it off. That night, they visited the main deck together beneath the stars. They walked around the ship while he puffed a cigar.
They confided in each other. She told him she was alone. He told her he was, too. He told her that he didn’t usually smoke cigars. She told him she didn’t usually date men who put makeup on dead people.
“I missed talking,” she says. “That’s what Robert gave me, he gave me conversation.”
They talked until the sun came up over the South Pacific.
Megan admits that finding romance on a cruise ship was like one big daydream.
Every morning, she’d exit her room to see Robert waiting for her. He’d lean onto the ship’s railing, wearing a Panama hat, smoking his Cuban. She would be dressed in gaudy resort clothing, and wearing print dresses that looked like multi-colored Hawaiian hallucinations.
After the cruise, Robert came to visit her at home. He drove a long way to see her little apartment in Florida.
“I knew I loved him,” she says.
They married later that year. It was impulsive, it was irrational. It was perfect. And they went on six more cruises throughout their marriage. Six. Not including their trip to Iceland.
“He taught me how to live to the fullest,” she says. “That’s one thing an undertaker will teach you, they know so much about how precious life is, and they don’t waste it.”
Robert is gone now. He died during complications involving pneumonia. Next week Megan is about to move into an assisted living facility, she has no regrets in this life. She is not sad. Neither is she lonely anymore. And in her new nursing home, Megan plans on teaching other seniors how to deal with loneliness. Even though—let the record show—she is not a senior citizen.
Rest easy, Robert. And long live love.
Naomi - June 29, 2020 11:18 am
We are friends with several undertakers and have known them for 40 years. One of them had a large building and our church met there for several years until our church was being built. The Sunday school classes met in one of the viewing rooms.They have two daughters and had them in my classes when they were in school. When they graduated from high school, one of them became an undertaker, along with her mother. Another one was killed in a motorcycle accident. He could sing and he would tell funny stories about the business he was in. The first time I met him was at a Valentine dinner at our church. He told us about his first date with his wife. They were out for a romantic dinner when he was called to go pick up a body. It seems like a woman killed her husband with one of those large wooden spoons that a lot of people have hanging on their walls. In the early 80s, I owned a flower shop so I had to deliver flowers to several funeral homes. I also had to pin corsages on corpses who were in coffins. This meant that I had to lean over their bodies because the corsage always goes on the left lapel. Although I was married, one of the funeral home undertakers had a crush on me. Every time I delivered flowers there, he would want me to sit and have coffee with me and just talk. Even my late father-in-law worked for a nursing home. He was a guard at the funeral home at night. I don’t know why they needed a guard; I don’t think anyone was going to steal a body. Once you get to know them, they are just normal people and almost all of them are funny. They like to tell jokes and live a full life. I guess they do that because they know how short life is.
Jannie Bug - June 29, 2020 11:26 am
Sweet story…and lesson! Never say never!
Ann - June 29, 2020 11:48 am
A beautiful Monday morning story….
Marilyn - June 29, 2020 12:12 pm
How heart warming! Maybe it’s time for me to book a cruise! Lol
cobernjudymsncom - June 29, 2020 1:15 pm
Alan Clearman - June 29, 2020 1:16 pm
One of your better stories, so accurate. I am not a senior citizen!
Cathi Russell - June 29, 2020 1:22 pm
I loved this story about non-senior citizens!
Betty Boyles - June 29, 2020 1:24 pm
I loved your post today! I also miss conversations with my deceased spouse- but nit enough to remarry. We told each other that we wouldn’t take a million dollars for each other, but wouldn’t pay a dime for ten more just like us!
Judy - June 29, 2020 2:09 pm
❤️ this story!
Helen De Prima - June 29, 2020 2:24 pm
Bruce Stover - June 29, 2020 2:37 pm
Linda Moon - June 29, 2020 4:18 pm
For the record, I am not a senior citizen. Right. I understand Megan. Fun, music, and cats can help prevent loneliness while we’re embracing aging. I’m sorry for Megan’s loss of Robert. Vive’ L’Amour, Megan, and listen to the beautiful Plaisir D’Amour song while remembering Robert!
Connie Ryland - June 29, 2020 4:23 pm
Lovely story. I’ve been alone 10 years now. Not lonely. I have my children and grandchildren and a job, but at my age, it’s easy to give up on finding love. I’m so happy to see it truly happen for another NOT senior citizen. Love and hugs.
Lisa Wilcox - June 29, 2020 4:27 pm
Thanks for your blog . I look forward to reading them daily & have a file in my email just for your stuff!
BTW, as a Filipina, I had to let you know that the Elvis impersonator on the cruise is “Filipino”.
Thought you might wanna know how to spell that correctly as “Philippines” is hard enough!
MR Russell - June 29, 2020 5:13 pm
You made me laugh out loud three times and cry at the end of the story. You have such a gift! Thanks you for sharing it with all of us.
Becky Souders - June 29, 2020 5:27 pm
Thanks. You’re the bomb, Sean Dietrich. I am 77 and I am also not an old lady. I will admit to being senior, which is better than junior.
I send you smiles that you put there!
Christina - June 29, 2020 5:38 pm
Long live all the not old friends who keep showing us how to live well!
Lois Young - June 29, 2020 6:40 pm
Sometimes you have to do something unexpected and different to find what is missing in your life. I’m hoping your readers (seniors and not) will get the message. 🙂
Robert M Brenner - June 29, 2020 11:49 pm
Wonderful love story! ❤️
Karen Howard-Goss - June 30, 2020 8:49 pm
Just read this aloud to my husband as we drive to the airport. Renewed our vows this morning for our 25th anniversary. Now onto the honeymoon we never had. Perfect read. Life is precious. So is love!
Lisa - July 1, 2020 2:51 am
Love their story!!
Lifer Steve - August 7, 2020 2:10 am
I’m about to turn 60 & still out work most 40 yr olds. Very happily married to #3.
If you’ve never took a cruise start saving now. Nothing in your life will ever come close. There’s no describing the food. It’s way beyond perfect. The fun. You could stay on that ship a month & still miss things. Lots of things. Ride the water slide. You’ll be glad you did & sorry you didn’t. See more of the Milky Way than you ever thought possible.
Verna Montgomery - August 8, 2020 6:51 am
Every single story you write Sean, makes me smile…makes me cry or both at the same time….
We need more YOU..This world is faltering..Your stories remind us of what is important in life….
Maybe by reading them ,we will learn a little something about love…and care about each other just a little more….
Joe Patterson - August 8, 2020 7:42 pm
Getting older you learn how to appreciate each day but all the people you looked after grow up and leave to live their lives .Your friends who you grew up with move to far away cities and they begin to die one at a time.You do still enjoy life but it gets lonelier as you live.Enjoy one day at a time .